Abstract

Background: Economic stress can serve as a second hit for people who have already accumulated a history of adverse life experiences. How one recovers from a setback is a core feature of resilience but is seldom captured in animal studies. Methods: We challenged mice in a novel 2-hit stress model by first exposing them to chronic social defeat stress and then testing adaptations to increasing reward scarcity on a neuroeconomic task. Mice were tested across months on the Restaurant Row task, during which they foraged daily for their primary source of food while on a limited time budget in a closed-economy system. An abrupt transition into a reward-scarce environment elicits an economic challenge, precipitating a drop in food intake and body weight to which mice must respond to survive. Results: We found that mice with a history of social stress mounted a robust behavioral response to this economic challenge that was achieved through a complex redistribution of time allocation among competing opportunities. Interestingly, we found that mice with a history of social defeat displayed changes in the development of decision-making policies during the recovery process that are important not only for ensuring food security necessary for survival but also prioritizing subjective value and that these changes emerged only for certain types of choices. Conclusions: These findings indicate that an individual's capacity to recover from economic challenges depends on that person's prior history of stress and can affect multiple decision-making aspects of subjective well-being, thus highlighting a motivational balance that may be altered in stress-related disorders such as depression.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Psychiatry
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • Decision making
  • Depression
  • Foraging
  • Neuroeconomics
  • Resilience
  • Stress

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